Copyright 2015 Rachel Pierre
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Part 1: *Courtship*
He showed up at church that Sunday and no one had ever seen him before. He shook hands and hugged the pastor. It looked like they were long lost friends.
But he sat in last row in the back pew, in the furthest corner as if he wanted to be away from everyone.
The church had consisted of mostly old white ladies who always made it a point to sit in front. And woe to the person who tried to sit in “their seats.” Pastor Tom Keeling was a good enough guy but had no interest in marketing his church to the rest of the world. He was a round shouldered little man with small hands and a huge, wrinkled forehead. The forehead of a man who has spent his entire life worrying. His eyes were a dull green beneath bushy eyebrows. Early life battles with alcohol had crimsoned the tip of his large nose. He had primarily served families from the nearby military base. But with the cutbacks, the church had a dwindling membership and the pews were usually half full on Sundays.
So initially I thought that the man elected to sit by himself because there really wasn’t anyone in his age bracket. He was a “tweener”, too young to hang out with the elderly and too old to hang out with us hipsters.
He sported a military buzz cut so initially had him pegged as a serviceman. A few specks of gray dotted the sides. Impeccably dressed, he wore khaki slacks which fit tightly around his hips and a button-down blue shirt which could not conceal the rippling muscles of his chest and arms. I was a sucker for a man with a v-shaped torso, no matter what the age.
I made eye contact with him once. I smiled and looked away. I wondered if he returned my smile.
In the weeks that followed, he would come into church a half-hour before the service started. He would greet the pastor and his wife for a brief minute then sit down.
He would always have his head down in either his Bible or the church program. His Bible looked tattered, with holes on the cover and worn pages which had been color-tabbed.
I tried to figure out what car he drove, if only to get some kind of read into who he was because there wasn’t much else to go on.
He seemed to appear out of nowhere. Tall and lean, he was a shade over six feet and probably weighed one hundred eighty pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal.
But it wasn’t just his appearance that I found enticing. It was a vibe and a mood that I got from him. The way he moved and walked. One time he walked past me as I stood by the exit and his soft-soled shoes never made a sound.
Then I would try to look to see where he was going and he would disappear, like a phantom.
The girls that I hung with in the congregation were all intrigued by him. Megan, of course, was the first to chime in.
“He’s a serial killer,” she said “You can tell by the look in his eyes. Does anyone have Dexter’s phone number?”
“I wish I had Dexter’s phone number,” Tami said. “And his.”
“So what’s his name?” I asked.
“We call him the Phantom,” Megan said. “Because he just appears and then disappears.”
“I heard the old ladies talking about him,” Rebecca said. “They think he is a serial killer also. He has his ax buried in the back of the church. But I told them he was actually a Russian spy waiting for the return of the Cold War. That’s why he never talks. He doesn’t want his accent to give away his identity.”
“Well, Russian spies are trained to speak English, duh.” Megan said. Always the condescending sort.
“I think he is a mobster type,” Tami said in all seriousness. “I mean he looks Italian. And I was watching the Discovery channel and they were talking about how they hide different gangsters in different areas when they turn state’s evidence. Who knows, your next door neighbor may have been a real life Tony Soprano.”
“Has anyone actually talked to him?” I asked. “I mean this is supposed to be a church. Not a gossip choir.”
“Who’s kidding who?” Megan said. “We’re a gossip choir disguised as a church.
“I dare you to go talk to him,” Tami said to me.
“Because I see the way you look at him,” she said.
“No way,” Megan said. “Our little Abby here is way too shy. Besides, do you see his designer clothes? And shoes? He is out of all of our leagues. I think he is some sort of high-flying businessman.”
I looked across the church aisle and spotted the “boys” in church. A group of guys who do the same thing us girls do, gossip about other people in the pew.
Dale towered above everyone in the church. At six-foot four, he had the build of an NFL lineman. He always had a smirk on his face and said very little unless it was to intimidate. His wife, however, was the opposite. A petite blonde named Tawny she had the sweetest voice and disposition. She always wore low cut blouses and was quite pretty.
Whenever Dale thought or imagined some other man looking at Tawny he would give the man the evil stare down. If the man didn’t stop, he would take it a step further and intimidate the invariably smaller man.
“Why are you looking at my wife?” he would ask.
This question would be addressed to anyone who even glanced at his wife. It was usually met with a startled apology to the large Dale.
“Keep your eyes to yourself,” he would threaten, then crack his knuckles.
He claimed to be a Navy SEAL but no one ever verified the veracity of the claim. Everyone gave him total respect because of the size, however, and all of the male congregants looked up to him for his macho credentials, whether it be real or imagined.
But the younger members of the congregation had been impressed with the Phantom. His good looks and the way he carried himself were things to be admired. They got the impression that he was everything Dale wasn’t.
One of the teens in the youth group claimed that the Phantom was in his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class and could choke out anyone.
“He’s awesome,” Taylor said. “He’d take a Navy Seal in a minute.”
“Horse shit,” Dale said, interjecting himself in the conversation.
Taylor, a bit of a young weasel, could not miss an opportunity. “I’ve been meaning to tell you this, Dale. And really don’t know how to say it. But he’s been eyeballing your wife.”
“Checks out her ass whenever she steps in front of him. Then he licks his lips. I see him.”
Dale’s face turned red. He walked over to the Phantom who had already seated himself in the furthest corner of the pew.
“Saw you looking at my wife,” Dale said.
The Phantom looked up without saying a word. Then he gripped his Bible.
“I don’t know who your wife is,” the Phantom said.
“The blonde chick. Front row. Wearing the pink top.”
The Phantom looked over and checked out Tawny. “Ah,” he said. “No, never seen her before.”
“Keep your fucking eyes off of her,” Dale threatened.
“She’s not my type,” he said. “Because she’s married to a pre-op transvestite.”
“The fuck you say!” Dale grabbed the Phantom’s shirt and picked him up.
“Dale!” Tawny screamed as she noticed the fracas.
The Phantom slammed his Bible into Dale’s throat breaking his grip. Then he slammed the Good Book against the side of his head.
Dale’s knees wobbled. He was not making any threats anymore, just a high-pitched wail.
“Stop!” Tawny yelled.
The Phantom then opened his Bible to the middle and slammed it against Dale’s face. The big man pitched backward with the open Bible remaining on his face, as if he fell asleep reading.
Pastor Tom ran to intervene.
“What is going on?” he said, his voice panicked.
“He started a fight with me. I finished it.”
“Said I was looking at his wife.”
Pastor Tom just shook his head as if he had heard the story before. Tawny tried to lift her meat head husband off of the ground. Pastor Tom assisted.
“Do you need an ambulance?” Pastor Tom asked.
Dale shook his head dumbly.
“Good,” Pastor Tom said as he escorted them to the entrance. “Third time this has happened. Don’t come back. Either of you.”
“He was looking at my wife!” Dale said.
“Dale, I have never seen anyone with more of a personality problem than you,” Pastor Tom spoke in a hushed tone. “You come here every damn week and accuse other men of staring at your wife. Trust me. No one is that beautiful! Not even your wife. So get over yourselves. And please don’t come back!”
Pastor Tom slammed the door shut and smiled at the congregants who looked on shock.
“Are we all ready to sing some hymns?”
He motioned for the choir to begin.
The Phantom picked up his Bible off of the floor and brushed it off as if it were something precious. Pastor Tom patted him on the back, whispered something in his ear and then the Phantom chuckled to himself as he sat back down.
“Kind of brings new meaning to the phrase ‘Bible Thumper’, doesn’t it?” I said to the gaggle of girls.
“He can thump me anytime,” Megan said.
I finally met the Bible Thumper officially at the Wednesday night service. It was one of those nights were I was deciding on whether or not I should go. I had had a crappy week at work and it was raining hard. The rain kind of reflected my mood and I thought I should just stay in.
“Perfect timing,” I thought as I stepped out of my red Honda Accord. “Forgot my umbrella and will look like a shipwreck victim by the time I get to the door.
Then a shadow came over me and the rain no longer pelted my hair. And I should say that I smelled him before I saw him. A designer fragrance that I never smelled before but made me want to just drink it in.
When I realized it was the Phantom holding his umbrella over me, my heart began to race.
“We finally got some rain,” he said as he walked me to the church entrance. He held the door open for me but didn’t follow me in.
I was stunned into silence. Did I even say thank you?
I looked back and he was gone, staying true to his nickname. Guess he wasn’t into the Wednesday services.
I sat in the service and had more of a maudlin, self-pitying experience.
My life was a study in inertia. Here I was, Abigail “Abby” Clement. Twenty eight years old. A registered nurse who hated the people I worked with and served. I mean I hated that shit.
And I had no boyfriend or even a prospect of one to give me some light at the end of the tunnel.
I wanted to make a difference or at least I thought I did. That is what we are supposed to say, right? I grew up in the church and went on missionary trips and helped poor kids in Ghana and Mexico. Kids who had lives of sheer poverty that made me cry. And also made me feel damn guilty when I thought about all of the trivial things I complain about. I liked Mexico the best. One time we helped build a house and one of the Mexican girls took me aside and cooked me a plate of rice and beans. She talked about her mom and her boyfriend and her little girl. She said I looked like her sister who died of cancer two years ago. I was amazed at how she put a good face on tragedy and how quick she was to smile.
Flash forward ten years later and the work in the emergency room in Oakland is more than enough for me. Serving the community in the inner city made me jaded. I really wanted to care about the people I served but they made it awfully hard when they called me a “white bitch”, “white hoe” and my favorite was “you ain’t nothin’ but a white woman.”
I know it was supposed to hurt me but it only made me roll my eyes.
But I knew I was on the wrong track, if you will. I looked at the nurses that were senior than me in department, both in age and on the job experience. They were almost all overweight, divorced or in unhappy marriages, and had low-level to extreme depression.
That was the road I was on. And I didn’t know how to make an exit.
Ah, well, his name is Chad. We met at church and he dumped me about a month ago
“I just want something else out of life,” he whined.
“What do you mean?” take a chair and sitting with him at Whiner’s Diner.
“I don’t know. You and I just aren’t clicking. We do the same things over and over. Talk to the same people. And I’m sick of church. Sick of my job. And I’m sick of you.”
“Fuck you, Chad!”
He looked at me in surprise. I never cursed in front of him before.
“Why do you have to be like that? Sometimes things just happen this way. I think we’re just going in opposite directions. There are things I want to do. Places I want to go. I can’t do any of those things with you. You’re either at work or church.”
“You knew that going into the relationship.”
“I know,” he said. “And I’m sorry. I just don’t want what you want. Actually, I don’t know what it is that you want. You are on a dead end road. You’ll work at the hospital for rest of your life and then retire. Same people. Same job. Every day. For years and years.”
“What’s wrong with that? You just described the entire human race. They get a job, they buy a house, and they raise a couple of kids.”
“I want adventure! I want to bungee jump. I want to sky dive. And I want to-”
“I want to try different things.”
“What do you mean?”
“I want to stick it in your bung hole,” he whispered.
“That’s what this is about? You’re breaking up with me because I won’t have butt sex with you!”
I should mention that this conversation was taking place in a crowded coffee shop. Needless to say, everyone stopped and glanced at us for a moment. An angry looking mother covered her daughter’s ears as she placed her order at the counter.
I could have flipped the script on Chad but didn’t. Truth was, I was just as bored with his skinny ass as much as he was with me. Sometimes I felt like strapping on a dildo and boning him in the butt, he was such a pussy. As soon as I found a man who had passion, brains and brawn I was going to dump Chad.
But I won’t lie. I cried my eyes out that night because he dumped me. But it was more because he beat me to it.
I don’t think a woman has to be raised in the church like I was to want a man that made you feel safe. Someone who would put me first and make all the tough calls. But most of all, treat me with love and respect.
But was that even realistic nowadays? With all the feminism, misandry, women’s rights, and misogyny. Not to mention video games, porn and more porn.
Does a real men even exist anymore? As the song goes, “Where have all the cowboys gone?”
At the woman’s group, I told all of my friends about Chad breaking up with me. They showed me support but I felt the insincerity in their voices.
“It’ll be okay,” Megan said, hugging me. “Trust me. We’ve been through this before. We’ll get through it again.”
Jesus. I knew later on that she would chat with him on Facebook to get his side of the story.
“It is his loss,” Tami said.
“I always thought he was gay,” Rebecca said. “Now that you’re not with him anymore I can finally say it.”
“You need to find yourself a good man,” Gina said. “That’s all you need, girl. A Godly man that will take care of you.”
Gina had four different kids from three different men. Now she was pregnant with a fifth with a new guy, a young military officer who evidently didn’t know any better.
So the church support group grew tiresome for me. I was tired of hearing about God’s promises and how he had a “plan for my life.”
Tell him that his plan sucks, I wanted to say. I was pissed that there was some invisible man in the sky he decided that I was going to be alone for the rest of my life.
“So you’re single,” Megan said as we walked out to our cars that night. “God has a plan for everyone. Some of us get married to a stud and have tons of babies. But God also needs someone to be the ‘Crazy Cat Lady’!”
The rest of the girls started laughing at my expense.
I glared at Megan.
“I’m kidding,” she said, holding up her hands.
I had to use the bathroom and decided to run back into the church before Pastor Tom closed up shop.
I hated my job. My ex-boyfriend. Church and life itself. I felt like pissing on the church floor just for craps and giggles.
I barely made it to the bathroom as I pissed out enough water to fill Lake Merritt. I wobbled over to the mirror after.
Twenty-eight fucking years old and without a ray of hope.
God, if you are out there. Send me an angel.
It was the first time I prayed since I was a little girl. But He didn’t answer me back then either (my hamster died or I wanted the furry guy to be resurrected like Jesus.)
I stepped out of the bathroom and passed through the empty pews. And I saw him sitting in the corner, by himself.
Reading his Bible.
Was there another service? Maybe the men’s service that he arrived early for?
Megan’s sarcastic voice echoed through my head. “He’s way out of your league,” I heard her say. “Way out of all of our league.”
Well, says who bitch?
I don’t know what got in to me. I walked straight over to him and shyness be damned, I was going to make conversation.
I tried not to be intimidated by his physical appearance. Everything was perfectly in place. Ironed slacks, a light blue shirt which barely hid tanned pectorals.
“Hi there,” I said, sounding like a sophomore cheerleader selling Girl Scout cookies. “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Abigail. Friends call me Abby.”
“I know,” he said, extending his hand. I placed my hand in his and felt the gentle strength of his grip.
I liked his voice. Smooth with an almost musical timber. He didn’t let go of my hand.
“I didn’t get your name?”
He smirked. “They call me the Phantom.”
“Oh my indeed. I over hear stuff. I know what people say about me. So what brings you in tonight?”
I saw the lights gleam off his caramel colored eyes. They were almost orange in color and looked delicious.
“What brings me in for every service,” I stammered. “I want to find a real man.”
He cocked one of his eyebrows.
“Every single woman that comes in here hopes to find a real man sitting in these pews. When I say real I don’t mean that in a bullshit ass Marlboro man way. Most of the guys that come here all want to please their mother and act Christian when it suits them. They say the right things and have the right opinions. But I want a man who really knows what is real. Someone who has failed and succeeded. Someone with integrity and intelligence. Who has lived a life?”
I looked around and realized that some men had begun to file in. The men’s group was a quasi bullshit hour where men discussed what it was like to be a man. I heard from Chad that it mostly consisted of guys who needed to stop jerking off to porn.
“Your honesty is quite refreshing, Miss Abby. But why are you telling me all of his.”
I felt his hand gently squeeze my own. He literally had me in the palm of his hand.
“Call it woman’s intuition,” I continued. “I can see that you are different from these other guys. You’re a little older. You don’t feel the need to impress anyone with banter or smooth talk. Or about things you’ve done. You just look really comfortable in your own skin. I’m intrigued by you.”
He looked at my hand. I thought he would kiss it like some English gentleman. Instead, he let go of my hand and looked away. His eyes blinked hard as if he were having some deep thoughts. Then he looked back up at me.
“Okay,” he said. “Would you like a cup of coffee?”
He stood up and I followed him over to the hallway.
The Phantom strode over to the coffee stand and poured out the java into two Styrofoam cups. He turned around and seemed surprise to see me standing so close to him. He probably wanted me to wait by the pews.
“Tell me more about Miss Abby” he said, handing me a cup.
I rambled on and on. Pastor Tom started the talk and we stayed in the hallway. He didn’t say anything. Just let me talk and talk and talk and he never looked bored.
I liked that in a man.
I told him about Chad and that we were finished.
“How long did you date this guy?”
“Two years is more than enough time to make a decision.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I should have pulled the trigger on it a long time ago. Don’t know why I didn’t.”
“What are you looking for now?”
“I know what I don’t want,” I said. “I’m starting to realize how short life is. How short my youth is. So I want to do the things I want to do. Be around the people that truly love me.
“And what do you want now?”
“I want to spend more time with you. I mean, I want to talk to you more.”
He took out his phone.
I gave him my number and received a text back from him.
It read “;)”
“Looks like the service is about over,” he nodded over to the pews. “It would be rude if I just waltzed back in. And it looks like your friends are waiting for you.”
Outside the window, I saw Megan and the rest of the girls eyeballing us. They looked away as soon as they saw that we noticed them staring.
“Um, yeah,” I said.
“People will talk,” he said with a smirk. “Tell them that I’ve asked you out. But you’re still thinking about it.”
He put his coffee down and hugged me.
“They’re watching,” he whispered. “Want to really give them something to talk about?”
I didn’t know what to say.
He looked deep into my eyes for a few seconds and stroked my cheek. Then he gave me the softest kiss I ever experienced. We both closed our eyes and it lasted for about three seconds but felt like at least thirty.
He released me from the hug and I had to place my hand on the coffee table to study myself.
The Phantom walked away. I could not take my eyes off of his butt as he made his way out the door.
I waited a moment before I followed him out but then he disappeared. True to his name.
The girls sprinted over to me.
“What. In. The. Hell!” Megan said.
“Whoa, girl,” Tami said. “You have got it going on!”
“So did you guys do it in the back pew or something?” Rebecca asked.
Their curiosity and interest did wonders for my ego. I know they all secretly wanted the Phantom. They wanted him to come over and declare how smitten he was by their charm and beauty. They didn’t have the balls to go after they wanted.
I did. And that was a change.
So for that moment I felt superior.
“Um yeah,” I started. “So when I came out of the bathroom he just came up and started talking to me. Said he had been wanting to talk to me but finally worked up the nerve. I thought he was very sweet and we talked. We hit it off really good.”
“That’s the understatement of the century,” Megan said. “I thought we were watching a porno the way you two were going at it.”
“You’re the expert,” Rebecca said.
Megan extended her middle finger.
Yes, these are women that lead the youth ministry.
“We’re supposed to go out tomorrow,” I said. “You know how these things are. They say they’ll call. Then they don’t.”
“Yeah, don’t get your hopes up,” Megan said.
“He’ll call,” Rebecca smirked at me and then stuck her tongue out at Megan.
I should not have hedged so much. I had to learn to take my victories where I could. I only wish Chad could have seen our little kiss.
I was tired of dating little boys.
I was about to date a man.
Spiritually, I felt lifted. As I looked up to the night sky I saw only stars. The storm clouds, along with my anxiety, had inexplicably faded away.
The next day, I woke up with a “did that really happen?” feeling. I double-checked my phone and saw “Phantom” under my list of contacts. He was real. I squealed for joy, turned the music up and hopped around the room (don’t act like you don’t do this also when you’re home alone.)
I went out for a light jog which turned into a sprint for as long as I could manage that (about thirty seconds). Then the knees began to hurt and I did some sit ups on this contraption they have at the playground. I know it was a little late to try and get a six pack but I wanted to look tight “just in case” things went really well on our date.
But like a dummy I went to McDonald’s and had their McChicken because all of that running had worked up an appetite. I didn’t have onion rings or French fries so be proud of me for that.
I came home and my work called and asked if I wanted to work a night shift. Typically, I would say yes. But I blew them off. Who gives a shit about overtime money when you have a hot date coming up?
I spent the next hour or two debating on what would be the proper time to call him.
I texted him at 2:00 on the dot. I figured he would be done eating lunch or whatever guys do on Saturday afternoons. But I figured he would be a little different other guys anyway. A complete mystery as to what he did, but he didn’t seem like the video game playing, college football watching slob.
I waited one minute. Then two. Then he answered back.
“How R u?” came his reply.
I did some cartwheels around the couch before I texted back. Had to make him wait just a few seconds so as not to appear desperate.
Then I texted back…
“Do you still want to go out? I feel like we have a connection. I was thinking an early dinner? We can go halfsies or I can buy. Worked a lot of overtime this week.”
“That’s fine,” he texted. “But I always pay. How about Le Bouc?”
Le Bouc! That was my favorite place. Chad and I went there once. Awesome French food. But he complained about how pricey it was and we never went there again.
“That’s really expensive,” I texted back.
“But it is what you want, yes?”
“Of course. It’s kind of hard to get a reservation on short notice.”
“No worries,” he texted. “Leave everything to me. Five o’clock. Don’t make me wait.”
“OK,” I texted back.
Holy smoking shit, I thought. What was I going to wear? I hurtled toward my closet and shuffled through some of my latest purchases. I had a pair of dress jeans. A black blouse that had a sheen material in the cleavage area. Yeah, that would work. With a push-up bra.
I arrived at the restaurant first. I looked inside and didn’t see him. Just an elderly couple feeding each other soup. Then kissing. I wanted to be like them one day.
I waited a minute or two then started to feel anxious. What if he didn’t show up? What if this was an elaborate prank by Megan.
Then I turned around to find him standing in back of me.
How does he do that?
We hugged and I smelled that cologne again. Jesus. I felt the muscles of his chest pressed up against my face. Then my knees almost sagged to the ground.
He held out my chair for me and I sat down.
“A gentleman,” I said. “I like that.”
“In this day and age,” he said. “Women don’t seem to respond to that anymore. In fact, I think if most guys held the chair out for a women they would have to call attention to the fact they were doing it. Most of that early courting behavior has gone by the wayside.”
“That’s too bad,” I said. I wanted to say more but was fixated on how hot he looked. He had on dress jeans and snake-skin cowboy boots. His white long-sleeved button-up shirt showed just a hint of chest hair, a salt and pepper mixture that looked soft to the touch. Then he had those orange-brown eyes that seemed to kiss me as soon as he saw me.
Jesus, I was smitten.
We were seated by the window and outside I saw a parked car I had never seen before. It looked high-end and aerodynamically built, red with gray on the sides.
“It’s a Bugatti,” he said.
“It-” I stammered for the right words. “It looks like something out of a James Bond movie.”
“Well, maybe if we find the owner you can go for a test ride.”
“I don’t like to drive fast,” I said.
“It just takes some getting used to,” he said. “Then you won’t have it any other way.”
The host greeted him like a long lost friend and the two began chatting in French. He gave us our menus and told us about the dinner special. I don’t remember exactly what he said, something about a lamb and a special soup.
“Will the lady have anything to drink?”
“She’ll have the Solberg and Hansen,” he said, ordering for me. “I’ll have water.”
“Solberg and Hansen? Sounds like a Danish roll.”
“It is a coffee,” he said chuckling. “They roast their own beans here. They French are known for having inferior coffee. Once you taste this blend, you’ll beg to differ.”
“Did you eat before you came?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Had Fruity Pebbles for breakfast. Don’t laugh. Then went to Mickey D’s for lunch. I love their Chicken sandwich. Okay? Sue me.”
He frowned a bit. I ate what I ate and was trying to make light of my low brow diet.
“The thing about French food,” he said. “Is that you have to be really hungry before you partake. Otherwise, you can’t taste all of the flavorings. That assumes, of course, that the meal is done right.”
He slid my glass of water over to me. “You have to clear your palate. Fruity Pebbles and McChicken sandwiches may have done irreparable damage to your taste buds.”
The waiter came back with our drinks.
“Are we ready to order?” he asked, sounding like Inspector Clouseau.
The Phantom ordered for me in French. It sounded conspicuous and expensive. The waiter kept nodding his head and smiling. He winked at me as he walked away.
“What did you order for me?”
“It’s a surprise,” he said.
“What if I don’t like surprises?”
“Everyone likes surprises,” he said. “It’s a Big Mac. But they are going to take the special sauce out and put in their own.”
I gave him a queer look.
Twenty minutes later my “Big Mac” arrived.
He didn’t tell me what it was but it looked like an elaborate production. It arrived in a lobster shell. Inside the lobster shell was a cheese, egg, and brandy with lobster meat mixture.
It was, quite frankly, the most delicious thing I had ever tasted.
My cell phone buzzed. It was a text message from Tami.
“Wining and dining you, eh? Maybe you have a keeper?”
I looked out the window and saw her standing there across the street with Megan.
They both were making kissy faces.
Megan sent me a text. “U R A Whore!”
He stared at the cell phone.
“No,” I said sheepishly. “I’m sorry. It is a force of habit. I hear the cell phone buzz and a texting I go.”
He shrugged his shoulders, unimpressed. “I’m from a different generation. We didn’t have cells. Didn’t even have the ‘Net. I’m glad of it.”
He looked across the street and saw the girls texting.
“They follow you everywhere you go?”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “They’re just nosy. And it is rude for me to text. I’m sorry.”
“I texted ‘go away!’‘
We finished our meal and I thanked him profusely. It truly was the best dish I had ever eaten.
“But you haven’t had dessert yet,” he said with a smile.
The Phantom waved the waiter over and again ordered in French.
“Ordering for me again,” I said. “I kinda like the surprises.”
“You’ll like this one,” he said.
What arrived was a rich, chocolate pudding that they served in a heart-shaped bowl. I couldn’t help but laugh.
“I guess Valentine’s day has come early for me,” I said as we both began eating from the same bowl. The pudding was delicious, a warm chocolate with an after taste of vanilla.
“Us,” he said in a correcting tone.
I watched as the waiter turned the lights down. Then he walked over and lit a candle between us.
The flame burned in front of us and I watched the reflection flicker in his beautiful brown eyes. The moon from outside the window seemed to bath him in a halo of warm light.
Who are you Mister Phantom and how did I get so lucky to meet you?
I leaned back and pounded on my chest slightly to squelch a belch.
“Oh my God,” I said. “I am ready for bed.”
“Well, not just yet,” he said. “Feel free to go to the bathroom, update your Facebook status, blah, blah. Then meet me outside. I’m taking you for a little spin.”
He walked toward the door before I could answer.
I did take the time out to text Megan and Tami.
“OMG! He wants to take me for a ‘spin’! What does that mean?”
“It means he’s gay,” Megan texted back.
I powdered my nose and walked back outside. The Phantom had disappeared.
Then he rolled up in the Bugatti.
“Fasten your seat belt,” he said as I slid inside the car.
“Why should I?” I rolled down the window. “Maybe I like feeling the speed and wind against my face.”
I was bluffing.
“Wear it for your own safety,” he said. “The first time should always be safe.”
“Really?” I said.
“No rough and bumpy rides here. Just lay back and enjoy.”
I started to blush. He began to speed up and hit the corners fast. Then he turned the block again and saw Megan walking down the street. She eye-balled me in jealousy.
“Ha,” I said. “I just love making people envious.”
“Envy is a sin,” he said.
“Yep,” I said. “And that is their problem.”
He sped up and made a hard left turn. I fell into him, clutching his pants leg.
“Well, aren’t we a little touchy-feely?” he said now making a sharp right turn.
“I didn’t mean to…Slow down!”
He was driving way too fast for me.
“Slow down, jerk!” An old man watering his lawn screamed at him.
I closed my eyes as we continued to speed. I hate fast cars. And roller coasters. And being out of control…
I felt the car come to a stop.
“Don’t apologize. If I am doing something wrong, you should tell me. You can be a confident and decisive woman around me. You don’t have to tip-toe around. Got it?”
“Okay,” I said. “You’re driving too fast. It scared me.”
“Next time, we’ll take it slow.”
I liked the fact that he used the words “next time.”
Because I already started praying that there would be a next time.
They called him "The Phantom." He would appear in church, sit in the back pew and then mysteriously disappear. Each of the young women in the ministry wanted to know who he was because he was so damn handsome and mysterious. Abby thought he was out of her league. Until a dare from her teasing girlfriends forces her to introduce herself to him. And she finds him quite charming to say the least. A mystery man who disappears for days at a time, drives a Bugatti and speaks French. Not to mention the fact that he was devastatingly handsome. Abby soon becomes the envy of all the women in the church as she begins dating the mercurial stranger. He is everything she wants in a man as he helps her grow spiritually and intellectually. She has never been treated with more tenderness and respect in all her life. But there is something about him that Abby can't put her finger on. A sad event from his past that has traumatized his spirit. Something that is holding back his growing feelings for her. Can she heal his soul and keep his love?